The most iconic American pairing is sweet corn and briny mussels. Native Americans invented the clambake hundreds of years ago, when they dug pits in the sand and steam the lobster. You can make chowder by adding water and cream.
We honor this Milk Street summertime tradition by pairing the two in a chowder that you can eat with all your hands. It could also be a brothy, clambake. The recipe in our cookbook “COOKish” elevates the dish by substituting two flavorful ingredients.
We choose fresh fennel bulbs over the usual potatoes. This adds anise and contrasts to the dish. We add a little creme fraiche or whole-milk yogurt to finish the dish. This tanginess is a perfect match for the briny-sweet liquid from the clams, creating a creamy broth that’s just as delicious as the clams.
Corn kernels can be used from fresh shucked ears if possible (two ears of good size are required to make the 2 cups of kernels in this recipe). However, frozen corn is also an option in the off-season. Serve with oyster crackers or crusty bread to absorb the broth.
STEAMED CLAMS WITH CORN FENNEL, CREME FRAICH AND FENNEL
Start to finish: 30 min
2 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium fennel bulb.
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seed
Ground black pepper and kosher salt
2 cups corn kernels
2 pounds of hard-shell clams (1 1/2 inches in diameter) such as Manila or littleneck, scrubbed
1/4 cup crème fraiche or plain whole-milk yogurt
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven until it shimmers. Stir in the onion, fennel and salt. Continue to cook until vegetables are lightly browned. Add the corn and 1 cup of water. Bring to boil, then add the clams. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the clams open. Once more stirring, remove any clams not opening and discard them. Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and the crème fraiche. Season with salt.
Optional garnish: Hot sauce OR chopped fresh flat leaf parsley OR lemon wedges OR any combination